Sunday, 25 September 2011

Two Breweries Hill Race

Does my bum-bag look big in this?

Lovely Photos on the Hill - Ian Nimmo
Scrappy ones of afterwards - me
Folks milling around before the race - Neil G. Campbell

It was 2 Breweries time again this Saturday. I think it was Michael Geoghegan's sheer love for this race that clinched the deal and made us sign up for it as a last long run before Kielder Water Marathon in 2 weeks time. (Actually Peter isn't really on board with the notion that we shouldn't do a long run next week too, but I'm not going to, not unless its something good...)

We've done some hilly runs and quite a lot of long but to try and get ourselves in shape for coping with all the ups and downs of the Breweries we went and did a mid-week Pentland Skyline 2 weeks ago. I didn't find this easy at all but was relieved to have done it.

We had an unusually large entry of females this year leading me to fantasies of team prizes til Michael G. tactfully told me he'd read the entry list and there were some...erm...quite good girls running. Oh well.

There's a bit too much hanging about before the start, which could only be reduced by having someone willing to spend their day ferrying you about. You have to get to Broughton in plenty of time to get the coach to Traquair as its a point to point. Having said that, its all quite good fun and very well organised. There was coffee, tea and hot-chocolate and scones available at Traquair to keep us going before the race start. This was Gillian, Rachel and Lynn Morrice's first attempts at this race so there was quite a lot of last minute kit decisions being made. I hadn't left myself with much choice. As it turned out I had it a bit (but not drastically) wrong. With hindsight I'd have taken less food and more to drink and I would have worn a layer less right from the start. The sun came out and apart from on the tops where  there was quite a brisk wind it was really pretty warm. I took off the t-shirt under my vest after the 1st mile realising I was already uncomfortably hot.

Douglas and Jennie Young had driven down just to give us a send off, which was lovely of them. I don't know what they'll have made of it though. Pre-race runners brains flip about from thing to thing I think. Our chat was probably a bit odd.

Although I ran this race last year I pretty soon didn't know particularly where I was or what was likely to happen next. Peter had given me stern instructions to go round rather than over the 1st hill - which I did - though it seemed quite long. Quite soon we were on a descent that took us all the way down to the river which I could have sworn came after the next bit, which was a long slog up a heathery hill, over a fence and then a hard-going traverse onto a very peaty path. Around here I caught up briefly with Lynn Morrice, who's just coming back to racing after being injured. She had taken the path over the hill earlier and was bewailing the fact that Michael Nowicki had been behind her before that, had taken the low road and was now ahead. I told her not to worry as I thought Michael was going too fast for himself. He had been glancing anxiously behind when I was behind him on the hill and it was too early by far in the race for that. I think my going past Lynn helped revive her fighting spirit as about half a mile further on she went past me (and Michael N. who we both spotted just ahead simultaneously) and I never saw her again.

For the first few hills I overtook Paul Eunson (who cracked some ribs in the 7 hills race on the grassy death slide coming down from the castle and so has not had the best summer for training) on the ups and he came past me effortlessly on the downs. The ground on the Breweries race is pretty rough and I've not been out in the hills that much so my downhilling was dispiritingly bad. By the time I spoke to Lynn - about 7 miles in - I had gone past him on the last up and didn't see him again. After the peaty path there is another fairly short up and then a long descent marked by orange markers over surprisingly good ground this year as the heather was nice and short. This was quite enjoyable at first but went on too long - by the bottom part of it which gets quite steep and rocky and comes out onto a road to a farm I was feeling pretty whacked. I remembered it from last year though and had felt pretty bad at this point as well - its just about exactly half way - so felt sure I could recover on the next stretch of road and the next fairly gentle path up hill.  I tried to relax, trotting along the road, and spied just ahead Michael N. walking along with his head down. As I drew even he was shaking his head saying "I am SICK, SICK! I am dropping out at next check-point. I am VERY SICK!" Not far up the road was water and juice and jelly-babies. I was pretty dry by now, having some lucozade in my bum-bag, but being sick of its filthy sugary taste. A couple of cups of water went down very well and I trundled on - although quite shortly afterwards I was feeling thirsty again. I had a chocolate protein bar but I quite literally bit off more than I could chew. It seemed to expand exponentially in my mouth and I couldn't get it beaten down. I had to use the last horrible drops of lucozade to get it under control. Phew. Then I decided to tighten up all my laces. After this bout of procrastinating I had let a couple of people who were already ahead get a bit aheader, and I was caught up to by a Carnegie man. He trotted past and I settled in behind him for a while. We were coming up to the bit where last year, enjoyably, a whole heap of people went wrong. (There's nothing quite like running with someone and then finding that they are a good 10 minutes behind you!) This year, I was sad to note, the organisers had left nothing to chance, and the path into the woods and up the firebreak was marked with a swathe of pink ribbons and a plethora of yellow arrows.

There is something absolutely magical about this next little bit. I wish I could show you. Suddenly you are right in amongst the trees. The air is scented and is cool and soothing. The forest floor is littered with fantastic toadstools. After this is a rather challenging and very steep forced march to the top of the fire-break and a couple of marshals sat in the grass. These marshals, like all the others, were cheery, had made themselves comfortable and were very encouraging...

After this is a long sweep downhill. This sounds nicer than I found it. My feet and legs were already protesting. The ground had been very wet so was very boggy in parts. A couple of people swept past at this point including Fabienne Thomson, which made me wonder where the hell she had been...perhaps pacing herself? My friend from Carnegie caught up to me again. He was fearful of getting tummy problems, finding eating hard to do on a long race. I had tried to cheer him up by saying we'd be getting pizza and soup at the end and he only just restrained himself from telling me what I could do with my soup and pizza. "A cup of tea would do me!" he said, and I felt like a bit of a fat bastard for going on about food. I wasn't hungry either, just feeling a bit cheapened and sickened with sugary rubbish. Anyway, me and Mr Carnegie had another bit of a chat further along the way. He hadn't done it before so was anxious to know the stats. How far was there to go? I did my best to explain what I knew of the next bit of the course. We introduced ourselves. He was called Steven.

Up the road after Stobo I came to a complete halt. Barring the way were 2 large and fully formed bulls. Peaceful enough looking but I wasn't reassured by that. I tried to revise everything I knew about bulls. That wasn't much use. "They're terrifying". I looked to see if there was a fence I could climb over but that didn't help - over the fence were some horses who probably wouldn't have liked me climbing into their field. I thought of the man-eating Mares of Diomedes (the benefits of having a classics teacher for a mum) and thought better of it. Plan B., wait, like a child, for Steven. "Right" he said, "Hold my hand." So I did, hiding behind him like a child as we walked past the enormous, black, slightly curious bulls. Jesus H. Christ.

After that I was ready to get trotting again, but Steven was tired. Whats the etiquette for that? If someone's just saved your life and your race, is it alright to beat them? I trotted on anyway.

Fairly soon Trahenna was rearing its rather handsome heathery head. A man in yellow (John) told me he'd had a tip off that left of the trees was a good way to go, so having wallowed through bog to get to Trahenna last year, I followed. The route seemed longish but the paths were better. I felt I could run again but John was only walking. Point of etiquette 2. If someone has just shown you a useful route - is it okay to beat them? I went on at my own pace and as it happened John swept past easily on the way back down from Trahenna, so I did the right thing. He was a downhill man, not an uphill man.

The march up Trahenna was dizzying. There were quite a lot of very unhappy people ranged out up the steep, steep heathery flanks. I made relatively good progress, but was not feeling great. None of your walk/run nonsense. It was walk/walk - and that was better than the walking and stopping I could see going on around me. At very long last I topped out to see the Nimmos and some others? Who let me have some water and some encouragement before the final stage downhill. Last year I was blissfully unaware that there was close to a mile of road at the end. This year it was preying on my mind. I'd glanced at the Garmin as I was descending from Trahenna and saw that it was already 4hrs 20mins - my finishing time for last year. This took a little more wind out of my now ragged sails. I tried to calculate when I might get done but just couldn't. A lot of concentration was needed to avoid tripping on the trods on the way down. They were narrower than I'd remembered from last year.

Just before the road Peter and Michael were already dressed and were taking photos and cheering. I felt down-hearted and like a bit of a failure. The road was nasty. A car was tailing me even though there was room to pass. I jumped up on the pavement although my legs were protesting just to get the thing to go away. There was a guy ahead of me who wasn't getting any futher ahead. I concentrated on him and thought if I could cruise in at this pace it would be enough. He crossed the road early so I followed suit and then I heard footsteps behind me. I took a look and it was Rachel. Bloody hell! I hadn't seen her all race and now here she was. I did my very best to raise the pace as we went down the track to the finish, but I couldn't do much about it.  Rachel pipped me to the post. Oh well. It was good to stop.

Lynn was still at the finish and we were all kind of agonised. Lynn's back was really sore as was mine a bit. We tried sitting different ways or stretching. Walking back along the road things started to feel a bit better - it was just tired achy muscles making their feelings known! As Lynn unloaded a huge blueberry cake from the back of Rachel's car, Paul Eunson and then Gillian came past and finished. Good to know all the Porties were in. A while later, with the aid of pizza, soup, coffee and cake, back at the hall, everything was starting to look a bit better. (I know what you're thinking - you're thinking "I thought you said you weren't really interested in food?")  Peter and Michael were in great form. Peter had run a pb. for the course so was fine and happy. Michael had run a stormer and come in 10th and looked bright and happy. His training after the Moray Marathon had consisted of going to India and not running at all as his hamstrings had been giving him bother. This strategy had appeared to have paid off. Both of them were guzzling the free beer on tap on offer in the corner of the hall. I should mention Graham Henry was also there and ran and I'm sure did well but I don't really know how it all went for him as we never had a chat. He was his usual relaxed and happy self afterwards anyway. He loves the two breweries. (Michael N. had recovered  enough to be eating and drinking beer.)

Fast-forwards to prize-giving. HBT ladies and men's team prizes. Stewart Whitlie and Mark Harris in shock "crossing the line hand in hand" as winners. Our Gillian was 1st FV50. The prizes were generous so our Michael G. got a prize of beers for 6th senior male.

And then we all went home.

It was a wonderfully organised event - and the spread afterwards and the free beer is as generous as the course is hard and cruel! Lynn and Rachel were talking about what training they might do to come back and run a faster time, but I don't know. I was probably better trained this year but ran 16 minutes slower. Go figure, as the Americans say.

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